India put up a strong all-round performance at Kanpur to beat New Zealand by 197 runs in the first Test of the three-match series to grab a 1-0 lead. All eyes will now be on Virat Kohli and his men as they travel to the “Mecca of Cricket” Eden Gardens to reclaim their lost throne.
Before the Kanpur game, India toured West Indies, where their last Test was in Port of Spain. India were already leading the series 2-0 and another win would have helped them cement their place at the top of the Test rankings. But, the weather gods had other ideas. The game was hit with heavy and consistent rainfall and the match had to be called off.
Meanwhile, Pakistan drew the four-match Test series against England 2-2 and leap frogged past India to grab hold of the No.1 ranking, for the first time since the official rankings were introduced in 2003. After the fourth Test against England, Pakistan had moved to the second spot with 111 points but India lost two points because of the abandoned game and are currently a spot below Pakistan with 110 points.
Previously, it was Australia who were perched at the top of the team rankings, but a 0-3 drubbing against Sri Lanka pushed them down the table. A win at the historic Eden Gardens would ensure India takes an unassailable lead into the three-match series, after which they would be given the top crown again.
“Victory in its 500th Test means India is now one victory away from reclaiming the ICC Test Championship mace from Pakistan. India had entered the series trailing Pakistan by one point and needed to win the series to move ahead of its traditional rival,” said the ICC in a statement.
But, Pakistan also have a three-match Test series on the cards against an out-of-form West Indies side, and have a chance of regaining their spot. However, if India win two and do not lose the other, even a whitewash by Pakistan would not be enough for them to be No.1 again.
Kane Williamson is in charge of a strong New Zealand outfit who can stage a comeback anytime in the series; although beating India in India seems to be a Herculean task, it isn’t impossible. If New Zealand win a game against India and Pakistan clinch the West Indies series 3-0, the latter would be on top again.
But would that worry India too much, who would still have 10 more home Tests to play?